Rudy Giuliani has yet to genuinely affect the course of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe despite being a near-constant presence on TV since he became President Donald Trump’s lawyer, said current and former officials familiar with the special counsel’s approach.
For example, Giuliani told several media outlets that he wants to see secret FBI documents related to the origin of the Russia investigation, including the use of a confidential informant.
So he asked for the documents — informally. The answer? No response from the Justice Department or Mueller.
The incident illustrates how nearly two months after joining Trump’s legal team, Giuliani isn’t yet seen as a power player with the legal authority to go up against Mueller’s team of career prosecutors, current and former U.S. law enforcement officials said. He may be speaking loudly to the public but he’s not speaking the language of Mueller’s world, which comes in the form of legal filings, case law and investigative evidence. Giuliani has only met with Mueller once.
The former New York mayor’s entry into Trump’s legal team came as Mueller’s investigation was entering its second year and widening to include a growing number of Trump associates. And Mueller is showing no signs of slowing down, even though Giuliani has repeatedly called for him to wrap up the probe by September.
Speaking in an interview, Giuliani defended his strategy and asserted that public opinion related to Mueller’s probe has turned in Trump’s favor. “If we have such a bad strategy, then how do we turn public opinion with a hostile press,” he said.
“If public opinion is against them, they can’t do anything,” said Giuliani, arguing his work will undermine the credibility of any report Mueller sends to the Justice Department for possible action against Trump. “The report will go nowhere, and we will be able to counter with our own report which I’ll be involved in writing.”
Giuliani also asserted that Mueller can’t indict the president — a position the special counsel hasn’t publicly acknowledged, but is stated in a Justice Department memo. “If they had the power to indict, it would be a different strategy,” he said. “Since I’ve been on the case I haven’t been too impressed by them.”
“Rudy is doing what his client wants him to do,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor. “His client is a circus master and Rudy is dancing.”
“That is where long-time prosecutors and current prosecutors unfortunately look at Rudy Giuliani and shake their heads,” said Cramer, who’s now managing director of the international investigation firm Berkeley Research Group.
One reason Giuliani, who served as a U.S. attorney in the 1980s, is getting brushed off is because he has taken a haphazard approach to making demands and changes what he wants, one official said.
Mueller, who reports to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, has also enlisted help from officials within the FBI and U.S. attorney offices. The Justice Department, FBI and Mueller’s office all declined to comment.
U.S. prosecutors have often watched as defense lawyers mount boisterous public defenses of their clients, but officials believe that Giuliani is crossing a line by peddling conspiracy theories about the investigation.
He has repeatedly accused Mueller’s team of trying to frame Trump. “They don’t have a crime. And that’s why I say they’re trying to frame him. Because if they had any sense, they would realize they’re trying to put together a case on an innocent man. And that’s what we call in America framing somebody,” Giuliani told an audience in Israel Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
Cramer said, “He can’t honestly believe there is a government conspiracy to go after Trump.”
Now, Giuliani may be stepping up the pressure. The former New York mayor said Wednesday that he’s prepared to work with Trump’s other lawyers to make a formal demand to see documents related to the FBI informant. He’s also renewing calls to see an unredacted copy of a memo outlining the full scope of the special counsel’s mandate.
The demand for the documents is the latest condition Giuliani has placed on having Trump sit for an interview with Mueller and his investigators, who are probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump or any of his associates cooperated in doing so.
Giuliani has previously said he’s succeeded in private talks with Mueller’s team to narrow down the number and scope of questions for the interview. Officials interviewed for this story said they weren’t aware of any such agreement.
An interview with Trump is only one aspect of Mueller’s investigation, however, and prosecutors aren’t going to give in to artificial conditions or deadlines, one official said.
Mueller has made it clear in legal filings that his investigation is ongoing, complex and fully authorized by Rosenstein.
“The Special Counsel’s investigation is not a closed matter, but an ongoing criminal investigation with multiple lines of non-public inquiry,” according to a legal filing by Mueller last month.
“The investigation consists of multiple lines of inquiry within the overall scope of the Special Counsel’s authority,” according to the filing. “Many aspects of the investigation are factually and legally interconnected: they involve overlapping courses of conduct, relationships, and events, and they rely on similar sources, methods, and techniques. The investigation is not complete and its details remain non-public.”
Despite Giuliani serving as the face of Trump’s legal team, much of the actual lawyering has been done by Jay Sekulow and his team of lawyers, along with Martin and Jane Raskin, a husband and wife team of defense lawyers brought in at the same time as Giuliani.
Over the past year, Sekulow and his lawyers have done the bulk of the document review and legal analysis of case law to help formulate Trump’s defense, said a person familiar with the legal team. It was Sekulow, along with former Trump attorney John Dowd, who authored a 20-page memo sent to Mueller’s team outlining their view on executive authority.
Sekulow became the point person communicating with Mueller’s team after Dowd quit in March.
Sekulow has a background in constitutional law and experience arguing cases before the Supreme Court. While most of Sekulow’s experience has been on religious liberties and freedom of speech cases, he has brought on a group of lawyers with a background in criminal defense to help.
The Raskins have decades of experience dealing with federal white-collar criminal cases. In an interview Sunday on ABC’s This Week, Giuliani said that Jane Raskin had been tasked with writing a letter laying out the conditions of an interview.
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Following the departure of Dowd, Trump struggled to find an experienced criminal defense lawyer willing or able to defend him with several high profile lawyers turning him down because of concerns about conflicts of interest or damage it could do to their reputation.
After a month of looking, it was announced that Giuliani would be representing Trump. Giuliani has said he is doing the case pro bono and not charging Trump for his legal work.
Arguably, the biggest impact that Giuliani has had is when it comes to influencing public opinion, likely in case Mueller’s findings lead to impeachment proceedings against the president, Cramer said.
“There’s a logic when you consider impeachment,” Cramer said.
“The court of public opinion is relevant,” Cramer said. “You could make the argument that he’s doing his job by feeding into all the paranoia.”